Also found in: Acronyms.
compensatory educationa system of education designed to compensate pupils for the disadvantages they experience as a consequence of deficiencies in their social backgrounds and environments. Research undertaken by sociologists, mainly in the 1950s and early 1960s, suggested that children of lower-class parents, with disadvantaged cultural or ethnic backgrounds, regularly failed to achieve either academically or socially in school. Programmes of compensatory education were introduced in the US (Operation Headstart) and in the UK (Educational Priority Areas) during the 1960s and 70s. It is generally held that the approach has been unsuccessful, with poor levels of achievement by the socially disadvantaged continuing. The main reason for this is likely to be that piecemeal educational reforms of this sort, undertaken without any other kind of significant structural change, cannot compensate for the deficiencies of society, especially when schools themselves are part of society's value structures, and when pupils remain in the social setting which caused the initial problem. Also see ACCESS.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000